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It's Historic Calgary Week Again!

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

 

3207 Elbow Drive

One of last year's Century Homes, 3207 Elbow Drive SW

Century Homes Calgary 2012, Old Homes Tell Great Stories

Yay, it’s Historic Calgary Week again! It looked a bit nip and tuck, given that many of the venues were affected by the flood, but it looks like the very dedicated volunteers at Chinook Country Historical Society took a page from the Calgary Stampede’s handbook and “come hell or high water” this show will also go on.

As in every other year, there are some really great presentations scheduled. Subjects range from aircraft to oil production, Bankview to birds and Barrons and everything in between. The crossword puzzle has been published (Calgary Herald, July 26, page A20) and is also available on the Chinook Country Historical Society website – along with a complete listing of the programs.

Sadly, some programs have had to be cancelled. The walking tour of High River and the tour of the Museum of the Highwood, the tours of Rouleaville and Bowness and the programs at the City of Calgary Archives, for obvious reasons, will not be run. Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park has stepped in and will be offering more tours. You do have to register for these walks and you can do so at their website.

Century Homes has also become a very important part of Historic Calgary week and especially this year, given the damage caused by the flooding in many of the heritage neighbourhoods in Calgary. In spite of the closure of two of the three points of the Heritage Triangle, loads of people are participating this year. Check out the map and find more information at the Century Homes website.

In addition to cancellations, a couple of programs have had to relocate. The two programs scheduled for the Central Library on Friday August 2, The 1913 Palestine Exhibition and The Germans From Russia have been moved to Memorial Park (with thanks to both the manager at Memorial Park and the Volunteer Resources Department for their juggling to accommodate us).

And while my colleague and I have had no access to our resources (due to the flooding at Central) we have still managed to pull together a Century Homes program about several of Calgary’s historic homes and their owners. If nothing else, this exercise has reinforced my belief that we cannot find everything on the internet. Join us on Wednesday July 31 at 7pm at the Memorial Park Library. At the very least, it will be entertaining.

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Turner Valley Oilfields

Postcards from the Past, PC 1340

 

 

Elbow Park School

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Elbow Park School from website

Elbow Park School

From the School Website

The beautiful old Elbow Park School has been in the news recently. It looks like damage to the building was quite extensive and there is some question as to its future. Right now, it appears that the wings on either side of the main building have been undermined and are sinking. They are pulling away from the main part of the building and causing cracks and other structural issues. The CBE is currently deciding whether to repair the school or build a new one. The Minister of Education has pledged to do as much as possible to save as much of the historic school as possible. For the next two years, students from the Elbow Park will be in a modular school being set up on the grounds of Earl Grey School.

Elbow Park School was originally a cottage school, which was a two storey building as opposed to the bungalow schools of four rooms in a single storey. In 1917 the cottage building was moved to 3640 7 Street and in 1919 two more rooms were added. In 1960 the building was still in use for shop and home economics classes for Rideau Park students. In 1962 this enhanced cottage school became the home of Tweedsmuir School for Girls.

In 1925 a bylaw was approved by an overwhelming majority to spend 100,000 dollars on a new school in Elbow Park. The Parents Association lobbied hard as they felt their existing school was too small, badly ventilated, poorly heated and a firetrap due to its open central staircase.

William Branton, Calgary School Board architect and building superintendent, with consulting architect R.P Blakey, designed the school. The cornerstone was laid on March 27, 1926, by F.S. Selwood, Liberal MLA and D.S. Moffat, City Solicitor. To mark the opening on November 26, 1926, a bridge and whist tournament was held, followed by refreshments.

Elbow Park was the first brick school in Calgary. The assembly hall, once the gym, and currently in use as the library, resembled a typical Old Country chapel. The papers said: "The walls are being artistically finished with a dappled light brown tint. The building is ultra-modern in every respect. "

Our fingers are crossed that this old beauty can be saved. The Calgary Heritage Initiative Society will have updates on their forums, which can be accessed here.

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Elbow Park, Swimming in the Elbow

Postcards from the Past, PC 190

Addressing Flood Damage to Calgary’s Heritage Places

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

 

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Fortieth Avenue, SW, Elbow Park Flooded,June 1923

Postcards from the Past, PC 612

Sadly, many of the neighbourhoods which were hardest hit by the floods of late June were the old neighbourhoods, where many of the city’s century homes are located. The Calgary Heritage Initiative Society (CHI) has put together a Heritage Roundtable to address the issue of flood damage to these heritage places. The evening’s topical discussion will be on the extent and severity of damage to historic resources in Calgary, including heritage sites, and older buildings and neighbourhoods. Even if you aren't a heritage homeowner, we all have a stake in the heritage of our city and this discussion will be of great interest.

The panel members will also offer advice on reclaiming and restoring heritage properties. Fixing up a century home with a brick or sandstone foundation is somewhat different from mucking out the basement of a 1950s bungalow with a poured concrete foundation. Horsehair insulation and plaster walls react differently to water than do drywall and fiberglass. The panel members have years of expertise and they are willing to share.

Presenters will also cover potential sources of government aid and other help and provide advice to affected property owners.

The Roundtable will be at Fort Calgary on July 25 starting at 6:30 pm. The event is free and everyone, whether a heritage homeowner or just a person with an interest in heritage, will find this evening to be very informative. You are asked to register at the Calgary Communities website.

The evening’s speakers will be:

Eileen Fletcher, Heritage Conservation Advisor, Alberta Culture: Historic Resources Management Branch;

Darryl Cariou, Senior Heritage Planner, City Wide Planning and Design, City of Calgary;

Alexandra Hatcher, Executive Director/CEO, Alberta Museums Association;

Halyna Skala Tataryn, Heritage Housing Specialist, Real Estate Representative, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada.

If you are dealing with a flood-damaged historic property, the CHI website has valuable section on their forum that includes links to resources such as Canadian Conservation Institutes “Resources for Salvaging Personal Valuables” and “After the Flood” by Eileen Fletcher on the Alberta’s Historic Places blog, RETROactive The Calgary Public Library has also put together a resource list for all homeowners dealing with flood damage. You can pick up a copy at your local branch or find it online here.

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High River Flood, May 11, 1942

Postcards from the Past, PC 1627

Oh, the water....

by Christine H - 5 Comment(s)

 

PC 611

25th Avenue Bridge during the floods of 1915

Postcards from the past, pc 611

It has been a trying time, hasn’t it? Our beautiful rivers turned ugly on us. We knew they were fickle – we’d seen evidence of it in the past (see above) but somehow living through it and seeing the aftermath makes it different. We were particularly hard hit here at the Central Library. As I write this, we are still without power, which means our IT centre is without power, which means we have no computers. I started at the library before there were computers, when dinosaurs were still roaming the earth, but I realize I have become very reliant on the availability of online resources.

In the old days we had a Recordak machine – this would take a photo of the book card and the library card together and this would be developed as microfilm. By the time I was doing circulation we actually had a computer system in place, but there was no online card catalog – we were still using the same old card catalogue and a new, updated version on microfiche. We were unable to find out if a book was on the shelf or not. If it was there, great, if not, well...

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Circulating books using a Recordak Machine, Georgina Thomson Branch, 1965

Calgary Public Library, Our Story in Pictures, CPL 105 35 08

Then we launched the S.S. OPAC (online public access catalogue). We got t-shirts and had big parties because this was a revolutionary development for us. We could find out if books were in our system, if they were checked in or signed out and we could also place holds that would be caught the instant a book was returned. It made using the library so much more convenient. For the first little while, we couldn’t use the catalogue from home, but that didn’t matter much, because so few of us had internet access and what we had was glacially slow. But we kept developing our technology to make life for library customers simpler and quicker.

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Gerry Meek launches the S.S. Opac at Village Square, 1992

Calgary Public Library, Our Story in Pictures CPL 209-16-08

Now, we are back to square one – maybe even further back. I would have liked a Recordak machine this week. It would have been far easier than recording each transaction manually. That aside, sitting here, in the branch named for our first Head Librarian, I have come to realize that the library is still the same place that he envisioned. It is safe and welcoming. Customers have come in with needs as diverse as a place to wash their hands after mucking out basements in Elbow Park and the need to find some diversion. We have provided a place for people whose homes are still without power to charging their telephones and laptops and a place for folks just needing to see a smiling face and an indication that some things are still OK. Alexander would be proud.

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Mr. Alexander Calhoun, 1912

Calgary Public Library, Our Story In Pictures CPL 103-03-01

Our Cabinet of Curiosities: Rec Rooms

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Image from Canadian Forest Products Ltd catalogue

The Marine Room

from Six Master-Designed Recreation Rooms

Published by Canadian Forest Products, Ltd. 1961

One of the best things about working in the Local History collection is the thrill of discovering some of the weird and wacky items we have. Every day brings a new discovery and I thought it might be interesting to share some of these finds with you. To that end, I am going to write a semi-regular feature for the next little while called the Cabinet of Curiosities.

We happened upon this little gem when we were looking for items to take to a Heritage Roundtable display that would feature heritage architecture. The definition of heritage is broad enough to embrace the mid-century period; but, I must admit, having grown up with mid-century modern, I’m not sure I want to preserve it – it’s mostly just a painful reminder of my awkward youth. This may be especially true of the so-called “recreation rooms” that many of our parents developed in the basements of our suburban bungalows. These “rec rooms” were often the scenes of boy-girl parties and other naughty behavior when mom and dad weren’t home. I had often wondered where on earth people had come up with the themes for these “rec rooms” and now I’ve found out. We found the catalogue Six Master-Designed Recreation Rooms from Canadian Forest Products (which explains the surfeit of wood paneling) from 1961. In addition to the photographs and artists illustrations of the various themes it also includes templates for the brands and barrel ends (A quote: “In days gone by, an Old World inn-keeper was accustomed to take his stance before an array of spigoted barrels from which he dispensed in pewter tankards the specialty of his hospitable taproom. The spirit of this pleasant custom is recaptured in the décor of the Tavern. Chapter Nine contains instructions for making the realistic barrel-ends…)

image from Canadian Forest Products catalogue

The Tavern

In addition to the Tavern theme, the catalogue includes a Western Room, complete with brands and lariats (see below) the Polynesian Room (perfect for the Polynesian luau recipes I found in my mom’s 1960s cookbook - Flaming Cabbage Head Weenies with Pu-Pu sauce anyone?) and The Marine Room (above), with knotty pine paneling. Neat-o!

Canadian Forest Products catalogue

The Polynesian Room

Instructions for building the furniture, hiding the hot water tank, laying the floor tiles and a selection of finishes are all included, making this the perfect book for those wanting to capture those magic moments of their childhood. (You can find it in the local history room, call number 643.55 SIX)

Canadian Forest Products catalogue

The Western Room ("as Western as the Calgary Stampede")

The Bow is Officially Open

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Judith Umbach Collection

The Big Pour - The Bow Building, 2008

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

The Bow officially opened last week. It is a magnificent structure that has changed the Calgary skyline. A few weeks ago I wrote about Elveden House, a skyscraper built in the late 50’s and rising to a staggering 20 storeys. Prior to the bylaw change that allowed the building of Elveden House, buildings were limited to twelve storeys. The building of Elveden House marked Calgary’s coming-of-age. The Bow is another milestone. It is the tallest building west of Toronto and certainly one of the most beautiful skyscrapers in the country. I was able to watch its growth from a hole in the ground to its current glory. I must admit, having survived the recession of the 80s, as I passed the giant pit that was dug on the site of the old York Hotel, I was scared that this would be one of those vortices that constantly reminded us of our once great city. And as I understand from what I’ve read, this might have become a reality as we faced a similar economic downturn. But it didn’t and now we have The Bow.

The Bow is an appropriate symbol for our city. It is glitzy but functional, massive but beautiful. It is cutting edge architecture, as it is the first skyscraper in Canada to use a trussed tube construction. The building has already won an award, from the Canadian Institute of Steel Constructors for its innovative structure. The use of external rather than internal support allows for maximum floor space and the expanses of glass mean that nearly every office has a window and, more importantly, a view. Emporis included it, along with the Petronas Tower in Kuala Lumpur on its list of “most impressive corporate structures.” This kind of attention affirms Calgary as a city on the rise on the international scene.

Judith Umbach Collection

Curvature in Steel - The Bow, 2009

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Judith Umbach, a talented photographer and former Calgary Public Library Board chair, has documented the evolution of this magnificent structure, from the first shovels in the ground to its completion. She has donated (and continues to donate) her collection of photographs to the Calgary Public Library and they are all visible on the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. You can view her photos of The Bow by clicking on the link above and searching for “bow building.” Take time to check out her other collections as well. She is documenting the development of this city by recording buildings coming and going and her work provides an unparalleled record of the living city. Judith’s dedication to Calgary and her passion for the city have been documented in a Calgary Herald article (May 31, 2013). Read about this great Calgarian here.

North West Travellers' Building with The Bow, under construction, in the background, 2009

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Forgotten Landscapes: Heritage Roundtable

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1325

Fort Calgary in 1881

Postcards from the Past, PC 1325

 

The next Community Heritage Roundtable will take place on Thursday, June 13 at Fort Calgary. A number of speakers are going to talk about heritage landscapes that have been lost or forgotten. Fort Calgary, itself, was one of those landscapes. For many years the site that had given rise to our city had been a railway yard. It wasn’t until 1974 that the value of this site was recognized and efforts made to reclaim it. Fort Calgary CEO Sarah Gruetzner will be speaking at the roundtable about the fort and the recovery of this historic landscape.

Another speaker will be archaeologist Brian Vivian who will talk about the Paskapoo Slopes area. This part of the city, which was actually the western edge of the city while I was growing up, has seen much development over the years. Many folks don’t know the rich history of the area which includes First Nations settlement, including a buffalo jump and processing camp. It is also significant as it is a unique landscape and important wildlife corridor.

Michelle Reid, a City of Calgary landscape architect, will talk about some forgotten streetscapes that have now been added to the Heritage Inventory. These include the Balmoral Circus, a circular park at the intersection of 19th Avenue and 2nd Street NW. The circus appears in the early development plans (you can see it on the detail from the 1907 map below – the whole map can be viewed in our Digital Library ) and is part of the legacy left by William Reader. Its twin, the Beaumont Circus in Renfrew, is also on the Heritage Inventory. These parks are unique in the city and are important in the history of green spaces in Calgary – a feature of the city that makes it such a desirable place to live.

 

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Balmoral Circus from 1907 McNaughton's Map of Calgary

Historical Maps of Calgary and Alberta, CALG 06

If you are interested in finding out more about our forgotten landscapes, join us at the Heritage Roundtable. The link to register is here. As usual, staff from the Community Heritage and Family History department will have a display at the event with items from the Local History collection. Pop by and say "hi".

Something's Happening at the Zoo

by Christine H - 4 Comment(s)

PC 1510

Prehistoric Animals in the Natural History Park at the Calgary Zoo, 1941

Postcards from the Past, PC 1510

The Calgary Zoo recently released its 20 year plan and it really looks ambitious. The President /CEO has said that “twenty years from now, the Calgary Zoo will bear little resemblance to the zoo today.” The prospect is exciting although not without controversy. The function of zoos has changed over the years. When I was a child the animals were kept in cages. In a major redevelopment, the Calgary Zoo built more natural habitats. The Calgary Zoo has changed and adapted over its entire 84 year history and I’m glad to see the tradition continue.

I have mixed feelings, though, about the loss of the dinosaur park. When I was little, the dinosaurs were the most memorable feature (possibly because they frightened the wits out of me).

The dinosaurs have been a fixture at the Calgary Zoo since the 1930s when the Zoological Society’s director returned from Europe filled with enthusiasm about the dinosaur park in Hamburg. A man on a mission, he decided to create a similar natural history park in Calgary. It made complete sense, of course, because we had rich fossil beds and lots of evidence of prehistoric life (barrels of which would come gushing out of the ground at Leduc about 10 years later). To that end, experts were consulted — these models were not going to be horror show beasts — they would be accurate representations of prehistoric life.

A number of sculptors were involved in the realization of these models, with John Kanerva being the most prolific, eventually turning out a large proportion of the park's 56 dinos. The Natural History Park opened officially in 1937, once Dinny, the life sized brontosaurus was completed. The Calgary Daily Herald praised the zoo, in attempting to replicate the “grotesque creatures of the reptilian age which monopolized the world aeons ago” (Aug. 21, 1937). The Natural History Park also incorporated actual fossil specimens as well, which were housed in the Fossil House (see photo below).

While I will be sorry to see the prehistoric park go, I do understand the reasoning behind it. We have a great resource right on our doorstep, at the Tyrell museum in Drumheller and while I have fond memories of the dinosaurs and the fossil houses, I look forward to the future of the Calgary Zoo, still one of the best in the world.

If you are interested in finding out more about the dinosaurs of Calgary, the spring 2013 issue of Alberta History, includes an excellent article by Calgary’s Historian Laureate emeritus, Harry Sanders. You can find the magazine (and lots more besides) in the Local History room at the Central Library.

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Fossil House a the Calgary Zoo, ca. 1940s?

Postcards from the Past, PC 2013

Century Homes, 2013

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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Magnus Brown Residence, 1906 8th Avenue SE in 1963

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 80-10

It is time again for Century Homes. Last year’s project was wildly successful and we’re hoping to see even greater response this year. We have launched the legacy database, which you can view in our Digital Library. This database is a gold mine of information about heritage domestic architecture, typically one of the hardest heritage resources to document and preserve. Large, luxurious old homes, like the McHugh house, attract a lot of attention when they are threatened with demolition, but what of the small homes of everyday people? That is what I found so exciting about the Century Homes project. Calgarians jumped in with both feet to celebrate the everyday history of their communities and it is a wonderful thing. I never tire of telling people that history is not a list of facts and dates, it is the day-to-day life of the average person that is the important history.

We will be joined by experts from the City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives and the Glenbow Museum Library to offer our program on researching the history of houses again on May 25th at 2:00 pm. (Register here, in person at your branch or by phone 403+260-2620) This program will be great for anyone wanting to participate in Century Homes, for anyone who is just interested in the history of their house or community or for people who are researching houses as an adjunct to genealogical research. Old houses tell great stories and we will help you coax a story out of yours.

Here is a little story about a house that is no longer with us. This house, at 1306 8th Avenue SE, across from the A.E. Cross house, belonged to Magnus Brown. Magnus was born in Selkirk, Manitoba in 1850. He participated in the Red River Rebellion, fighting against Riel in 1869. He was captured by the Metis but managed to escape. In June 1873 Brown married Letitia Cook from Winnipeg. Brown moved to the Red Deer River District around 1882 where he raised stock. In 1885 the Brown’s relocated to Calgary and Magnus secured contract work with Canadian Pacific Railway for railroad and irrigation construction. He was in charge of the ditch built by the Calgary Irrigation Company. Brown served on city council from 1910 to 1912. He was a devoted member of the Southern Alberta Pioneers and Oldtimers’ Association.

The house was well known for its rhubarb patch, cultivated first by Brown but then by the next owner of the property, a Mr. Laurendeau. He in turn sold it to Mr. Servonnet, who continued to cultivate the patch, but eventually sold the property in 1969. The land was then sold to the city in 1970 and a senior’s residence, called the Rhubarb Patch, stands there.

Elveden House, or, A little bit of Ireland

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

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Elveden House under construction, 1960

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 4306

 

I pass it every day on my way to work. It was part of my childhood, being fairly close to where my father worked, and I never knew anything about it. But as I was glancing out of the C-Train window, I noticed the beautiful green panels on the exterior of the building and then checked out the names, Elveden, Guinness and Iveagh. I thought I’d seen Iveagh House in Dublin. What was the connection with the Guinness family, whose products I enjoy every time I travel to visit our family in the Emerald Isle? Seemed like something I should know so I poked around a bit to find out just what was going on.

We have the photo, above, of Elveden house under construction. This is from the Alison Jackson collection (which can be viewed on our digital library). This is usually my first stop when I am looking for building information, as we have put information from the various newspaper articles we have published over the years, as well as other information we have gleaned from various sources. What I found out was that Elveden house was the first skyscraper in Calgary, built in 1959-60 at a cost of 5 million dollars and rising to 20 storeys. Until that time, buildings had been limited by law to 12 storeys in height. The owner of the building was a Guinness subsidiary, British Pacific Building Ltd, which partly explains the Irish allusions. The company built extensively in Canada, one of its projects was the Lions Gate Bridge.

On October 14, 1960, Viscount Elveden (Arthur Francis Benjamin Guinness, the grandson of the Earl of Iveagh – there are all my answers regarding names) officiated at the cornerstone laying ceremony for the main tower. Mayor Hays placed a box of records in the stone which included the Guinness Book of Records, an architect's drawing of Elveden House, pictures of Calgary, coins, local newspapers and magazines and a couple of bottles of Guinness. Hays called the building a landmark that would be “distinctly visible mark on Calgary’s skyline.” Motifs of the hexagon, which I noticed on the panels on the façade of the building, are repeated throughout the building as are harps and angels, which represent the Irish source of the Guinness fortune. Rumours were flying when the Earl of Iveagh visited Canada in 1949 that the building project they would undertake would be a Guinness brewery, which would have been great. But instead they chose to put up office towers. I found some newspaper clippings in our files which were written as construction was underway. The descriptions of the amenities of the building sound very cutting edge for the time. For example, workspaces were flexible and the glass on the south side was tinted, to allow natural light into all the offices. In addition, 70% of the materials used to build the structure were Canadian made.

Two other towers were built over the next few years; Iveagh House (called the British American Oil Building for its tenant) which went up in 1960-61 and Guinness House, which was built in 1964. Among the clippings was the information I was dying to learn – what is the correct pronunciation of Elveden? An equally curious reader posed this question to the Calgary Herald in 1962 and their sleuthing turned up the pronunciation “Elden” in one of those weird quirks of pronunciation, the likes of which have given us “wustershire” sauce. Apparently, the pronunciation “elvden” is OK but “elVEEden” is just not on. Who knew?

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Calgary Skyscrapers, with Elveden House in the background, 1962

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, 1962

 

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